Encourage curators!

I’ve just been very encouraged to get this feedback on my exhibition, “Signs of Life” (currently showing in Edinburgh at St Andrew’s and St George’s West):

“I spent almost an hour this afternoon at the Signs of Life exhibition with the audio guide on my phone. I had looked at the paintings/photos before, but the explanations, readings and poems brought the whole experience to life and gave a powerful message in a most imaginative way. (The lovely sunny day made it easy to linger!). I do hope that many people will look at it. I shall recommend it to as many folk as possible.”

For those of us not living in Scotland, you can swing by online and view thumbnails of the picture and hear the full audio guide mentioned, here.

Here’s the Takeaway:

Curating an exhibition takes weeks/months of preparation, putting up, taking down.  And it is immersive: you imagine it, physically put it together and wonder if anyone actually notices – and you also eat it, in a way, too – because you end up eating quick and unhealthy food just to get enough calories to keep going!

But every exhibition will, somewhere, have a book or place to make a comment.  Almost no-one does.  But I can tell you, hand on heart, write something therein.  It will take almost no time, and you may feel like it’s a quick not very deep comment – but it is an encouragement.  It’s a proof that someone else enjoyed seeing those pictures together, in that way.

A really good exhibition should show you art that you haven’t truly seen before, or make you engage with art that you’d normally walk past – or at best, takes you on a journey so you spin out the other end, thinking “What was that?!”  And a truly stupendous exhibition will have at least one piece that you can’t tear yourself away from, or you find yourself responding to, powerfully, or you go home and still remember it with fascination.  Sometimes, a picture or collection can change someone’s life.

There are interesting examples of this – such as Wassily Kandinsky who, while waiting to begin formal art studies, was smitten by an exhibition of Monet’s Haystacks series, despite himself (as recorded in Wikipedia):

That it was a haystack the catalogue informed me. I could not recognize it. This non-recognition was painful to me. I considered that the painter had no right to paint indistinctly. I dully felt that the object of the painting was missing. And I noticed with surprise and confusion that the picture not only gripped me, but impressed itself ineradicably on my memory. Painting took on a fairy-tale power and splendour.

— Wassily Kandinsky
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